International Network for Strategic Philanthropy – Looking at strategic philanthropy outside US and Western Europe

INSP research into philanthropic cultures and practices in Central and Eastern Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia has found that foundations everywhere tend over time to develop more varied and proactive approaches to implementing their missions. This coincides with an evolution from responses motivated by charitable impulses to responses aiming to address the reasons underlying poverty. This results in part from evaluation and strategic planning, but also from the pressure to achieve the greatest possible impact with relatively modest resources.

Most philanthropic research is based on organizations in developed market economies, particularly the US, and very little is known about the role and potential of philanthropy elsewhere. To address this knowledge gap, INSP commissioned a number of case studies from international experts, building upon work by the Synergos Institute in South East Asia and Latin America. These aimed to answer three key questions:

· What innovations take place in different cultures of giving?
· What are best practices and how can philanthropy achieve greater social change?
· Are there practices and models that are transferable from one culture of giving to another?

The results, which consider how practices differ in different countries, particularly from US and Western European experiences, are described in Innovations in strategic philanthropy – comparative lessons. It begins with an overview of major trends in local and regional philanthropy, with an emphasis on foundations and foundation-like institutions over the past 20 years, and describing the specific cultural, historical and political context. Conclusions from case studies from Brazil, Mexico, the Philippines, Thailand, South Africa, Central and Eastern Europe, and Pakistan are drawn together in a final chapter that identifies critical innovations in strategic philanthropy and focuses on best practices and lessons learned.

In many cases, foundations were found to focus initially on grantmaking to micro-projects, in order to respond to demands and create a grantmaking track record. Then, as they became more aware of their limitations, eg limited impact on root causes, foundations became more strategic by introducing a range of additional practices and programme interventions, eg working with others to catalyse change, building CSO capacity, and complementary actions to influence government policy. Many foundations realized that in order to have a strategic impact they needed to apply innovative approaches to mobilizing resources and leveraging assets, such as using non-grant mechanisms, eg loans, developing a range of income generation programmes, and entering partnerships with private companies. A range of local factors were found to influence the growth or type of philanthropy practised by foundations, such as the need to adapt through a transition to democracy and the increasing number of NGOs that result from a more open society.

Innovations in strategic philanthropy – comparative lessons is to be published alongside other INSP papers later this year.

For more information see

If you have interesting and challenging texts on strategic approaches to philanthropy that you’d like to include on the INSP website, please contact Dirk Eilinghoff at

Third INSP Plenary Meeting

The third and final INSP Plenary Meeting will take place in Turin, Italy on 31 March–2 April 2004. Its objectives are twofold: to present a stocktake of INSP’s achievements to date and to think about the future of philanthropy and projects such as INSP. As a consequence, the second day of the plenary will be devoted to ‘Making INSP II’, in which members will be asked to develop a project proposal for INSP after 2004.

INSP/Alliance session at GEO Conference

Alliance and INSP are to host a session at the Grantmakers for Effective Organizations’ 2004 National Conference, to be held 17-19 March in Seattle, USA. The title: Is grantmaking the only option? Foundation effectiveness from a non-US perspective. The session, jointly designed and facilitated by Caroline Hartnell, Alliance, and Dirk Eilinghoff, Bertelsmann Foundation, will show how thinking beyond the grantmaking model that prevails in the US and UK, and choosing the more flexible approach to grantmaking and operations common in Europe and elsewhere in the world, will help avoid the risk of having ‘strategy follow structure’. Luc Tayart de Borms, King Baudouin Foundation, will illustrate how KBF moved from strategy to structure and Bruce Sievers, Walter and Elise Haas Foundation, will make the link to ‘high-engagement grantmaking’ discussions in the US.

For more information see

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